Monday, February 27, 2012

Gluten Free in Austin -- Maudie's vs Hula Hut

Maudie's, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Austin, Texas, is a favorite hang-out for my brother Alex and his friends.  It has the most important things a twenty-something requires: talented bartenders and cheap food.  They also have a gluten free menu, which is why we headed out to Maudie's Milagro location, close to the Arboretum.

The food was cheap.  The bar tenders were talented -- I had an awesome Mojito.  They did have a gluten free menu.  Unfortunately, that's pretty much the best I can say.  The food was second rate at best.  The regular chips are not gluten free, but they will bring you special gluten free chips.  Pros -- they bring them out in a sealed bag, so you know that you got the right ones.  No one messed up in the kitchen and gave you the gluten-y ones by mistake.  Cons -- they were flavorless and a little stale.  The chili con queso was adequate, and we got the version that was layered with bean dip, which made a nice change of pace from the usual Tex-Mex offerings.

I ordered the Skinny Sheryl, which is two steamed corn tortillas, pulled chicken, tomatillo sauce, lettuce, and tomato, served with grilled zucchini.  It sounded great, but it fell short in reality.  It was adequate, but bland.  The zucchini was limp and soggy.  Too bad.  I realize that it was trying to be a "healthy" option, but healthy and tasteless aren't synonymous.

The restaurant was also extremely noisy.  Granted, it was a Saturday night, so crowds are to be expected, but the acoustics in the place were poor, so everything was amplified.  It was not possible to have a conversation.

Despite all that,  it shouldn't be ruled out entirely.  There may be other items on the menu -- the non-healthy choices, that are better.  And they deserve points for an extensive gluten free menu with fajitas, enchiladas, salads, and even a tortilla soup.  Contrast that with Hula Hut, a restaurant I adored in my pre-GF days,  where the GF menu had three items: 1) a hamburger without the bun, 2) a salad, from which you had to subtract all the interesting ingredients (no meat, no fried poblano ring, no tortilla strips) leaving you will basically lettuce and only one choice of dressing.  (Though to be fair, their creamy jalapeno ranch is absolutely divine!)  3) Flan.  They used to have a tortilla soup, but that has been removed from the GF menu.  And they served the flan to me with a cookie that wasn't GF.

Given the choice, I'll take Maudie's.